The putative project, news of which was widely reported in the Irish media, is said to be worth as much as €4.7bn ($6bn) and to involve the establishment of a new pharmaceutical campus at Tralee in County Kerry.
Although details of the project are yet to emerge, the Irish Examiner said that Cork-based pharmaceutical firm Pharmadel is the key driving force behind it with, according to the Irish Times, Anglo Irish Bank chairman Alan Dukes also involved.
In a short statement sent to the Examiner yesterday the group said that: “We would like to confirm we are engaged in ongoing negotiations to secure the Global Pharmaceutical Centre of Excellence for Tralee.
They added that the project is still in its infancy and that: “It is a long and difficult process and it shall be up to three months before we can announce a conclusive outcome."
The Irish Department of Enterprise (DOE) confirmed that it had met with the group in May, but added that it is awaiting the submission of a more detailed plan.
The project, which would be the largest of its kind in Ireland and increase Tralee’s population by 22 per cent, would be welcome news for the country’s drug industry which has begun to be impacted by competition from lower cost manufacturing destinations.
This trend was most recently highlighted in a report by PharmaChemical Ireland (PCI) which argued that: ““Ireland cannot compete directly with low-cost economies on cost grounds alone.”
The research cited the example of Pfizer’s $12bn cholesterol-busting blockbuster Lipitor, which is made in Cork, as one of the products likely to be lost to Ireland’s manufacturing sector.
The COE plan also fits with PCI’s proposed solution to this threat, namely that the Irish drug industry needs to differentiate its offering by developing as an R&D hub.
“[The focus should be on] giving global companies new reasons to base major facilities in Ireland, setting the country apart from competitive economies that are chasing the same investments.”
So, whether anything concrete emerges from the COE project remains to be seen, it appears that some industry players are making efforts to develop increased innovation in the Irish pharmaceutical sector.